A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie

A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie

No, we don’t have an Aunt Bessie. That is the title of a new book we are using…or rather an old book reprinted and revamped by Queen’s Homeschool Supply. One of those true living books about nature that I longed to read to my children but had no clue how to expand that over into an actual study of nature.

Sandi Queen must have had that same thought and she did something wonderful with it by putting together a Discovering Nature Series just for busy moms like me who are mulit-level teaching and just can’t squeeze one more thing into our already-busy planning sessions!  I just love grass roots efforts of other talented homeschool moms that really fill a need that is not there. That is just what this book does. It is a great mix of living book and Charlotte Mason teaching style!

Sandi cleverly breaks the lessons into chapters from the original book. You read a chapter to wet your appetite and then use the corresponding activities to further your study. It’s perfect. Some activities are coloring, some are researching, some are drawing, some are hands-on. There is enough activities after each lesson to pick one or two of your favorites or match according to level of grade but not so many so that you may just decide to do them all.

This book has been a favorite of the kids. We’ve been doing it for three weeks now and have learned all about spiders and swallows and sparrows. I will definately be ordering the next two books after we are through with this one. Here are some pics of the kids enjoying their new nature study.

Other spider books we read (from our own home library collection) ~

Book Finds

There is no greater joy on a Saturday afternoon then coming home from the library with a bag stuffed with new books…that is, unless you also hit the bi-annual library sale and happened to walk home with 15 new living books for $13.50!!!!! Especially when 13 of the books were hardback and library bound (i.e. see kids can’t chew corners), 5 of the books we’ve already checked out several times and loved, and one of the books was a Nature Journal that has been on our Amazon wish list for a year!

Here’s our loot ~

History Living Books

Science Living Books



Math Living Books

And, as if that wasn’t enough, our monthly homeschool group provided a great opportunity to swap out some of my old for something new. And someone else’s old Junie. B. Jones books and Magic Tree House books became my children’s cherished new treasures that are being toted everywhere and devoured at unimaginable rates! Upcycling. Just love it!

The Learning Room ~ of Mice and Men

This week was a productive school week despite our whole crew getting reinfected and having another sick week! Daddy had to go in early all this week and that always allows us to get more schooling done. (Daddy is very distracting for momma in the best sort of ways!)

Between bleaching everything, boiling toothbrushes, cleaning puke bowls, double hot-washing sheets, and cleaning carpet, we amazingly started a new unit study on how our government works. And I’m so excited to share with you the books we found.

First, let me just say I will be putting together a post soon on all our resources for others to share so come back and visit us again!

I’ve been wondering when to do the whole government study thing for a while now. How do you fit that into a history schedule that you’ve got going that is rather chronological in order? But then Gabe casually walked up to me one day and asked what a President’s cabinet was if it wasn’t the kind in your kitchen. And Pop came up to me and casually asked if very soon he could take the kiddos down to the state capitol for a field trip. So I guess now would be as good as time as any to get started.

We read Vote! and We Are Citizens to start the week. These were both very helpful in getting a foundation of understanding about why all this government stuff even matters.

Then we read through this sweet little series by Peter and Cheryl Barnes that explores the three branches of our government. Why hasn’t anyone told me about these books? May I just rave for a minute about how well done they are!!! It is about a group of mice that go through the government process just as we people do. It is told in lyrical rhyme and just flows beautifully. And the attention to detail is amazing. It is a true living book that captures my youngest non-readers, who get a great introduction to concepts, and gives a great overview to my emerging readers, and provides great detail (architectural and historical) to an older child who is ready to dig in for a bit of research. It provides more complete information then I ever received in elementary social studies and it pulls everything together into a neat little package about why these things get done.

Woodrow for President takes us through the voting process including campaigning, primary versus general elections, parties, qualifications, virtues of good citizenship and so forth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodrow, the White House Mouse takes us on a journey through the jobs of our President as well as an introduction to the White House and it’s different rooms and purposes. There is more information here then I ever learned in elementary school!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House Mouse, Senate Mouse teaches what the Legislative branch does and how the senate and house of represantives works together to pass a bill into a law. It also gives us an introduction into the workings of Washington D.C. and where all this takes place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse introduces them to the Supreme Court and how that works. It also takes us inside the Supreme Court and compares to a courthouse that might appear in your town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can get the teacher guide to go with (which I did) and it is a wonderful resource full of discussion ideas, prompts for activities and research projects, how to get involved (through correspondance ~ complete with addresses they will need!), additional reading and kid-friendly websites for additional research. It also has a few coloring pages for the littles to feel involved and some copy-friendly templates for activity worksheets.

My kids LOVED reading these. I’m glad I sprung for them since my library didn’t carry them. We received used copies in good condition and the kids were tickled that all of our copies were autographed by the authors. One even had a typo in the book that the author had fixed and signed “Oops!” with her name underneath.

Gabe also read How the U.S. Government Works which is a bit dry but concisely explains concepts that he will need to know more about being the oldest. Mainly I wanted him to see why the three branches of government were started and this book does a good job of explaining in simplistic, yet detailed terms. He did an oral narration to me on the book and we went over how to say each of the branch names. I laugh everytime I think of how he was pronouncing legislative!

The older two worked on their math, of course, and Lily was excited to have finished her Kumon: Counting Coins book and her Kumon: Telling Time book. And I reread all the Moncure vowel books to the littles as well as Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosuars which rekindled Luc’s first love and spurred on a conversation about the tools needed for digging up real bones. (I love this book. It is perfect for homeschoolers who are trying to teach creation-based science even though this book is secular.)

That was all we did “formally” (due to the sick thing and all). But there was a lot of unschooling going on as well.

Lily was wondering about day and night and how God didn’t create the sun and moon till after the first days of creation so how could there be day and night yet and when did the first day actually start? Man, does she have some deep thinking in there! My husband and I were just discussing this the other night concerning our version of day compared to God’s in relation to the whole young earth-old earth theories. I had her flip through What Makes Day and Night after our discussion and set up a little hands-on experiment for her to observe for herself how the sun is connected to us counting days.

Gabe decided to get creative this week. He spent days working on this project of writing his own story. (Could be that his Mario game was taken away in a discipline decision. Imagine that…imagination blooms!) He was very serious about his work and frustrated when he finally put it all together and then couldn’t read it right beacause he had no idea what a margin was. We discussed the importance of margins and he went back and took the time to redo the whole booklet in order to get it just right. I was pretty impressed at how well he did with the quotes and comma usage.

Gabe was also seen carrying around his Painless Grammar book wherever he went…the living room, the dining room, the bathroom, to bed. That boy cracks me up. Who reads grammar?

Lily’s new Highlights magazine came in the mail and she just discovered the Table of Contents. I explained to her what this was, why it is used, and how to use it. She excitedly spent the next hour looking things up in her magazine.

Language Arts…check!

Gabe also found this Word Processing book in my pile of library books to go through (you know, that pile of books you have going that need a decision on whether to write this title down for future use.) I noticed him reading it on quite a few different occasions and finally said, as casually as I could, that he could use the computer if he actually wanted to try any of the exercises. He jumped on the chance and learned how to open and save a document, create a folder, store documents in his folder, and write a letter.

The Learning Room – School Shenanigans

Spring is upon us and it is bearing green. I will admit it is making me not want to work. I open the windows and smell the breeze, listen to the sound of the birds and it all makes me want to sit outside with a good book and a hot cup of coffee. And you should, I hear you saying. I know, I know. But I am inside looking at heaps of laundry that needs putting away and dishes piled up, a kitchen floor that needs mopping, more laundry that needs done, toys that need sorting ~ again ~ and a learning room that desperately needs to be organized now that all our new books for the year have come in. Sigh. It has been a rough week of kids being sick. But we went outside anyway. We declared it school. We were finding green for St. Patrick’s Day and looking for new signs of spring returning. Plus P.E. right? Can’t forget the exercise. It was good for our souls despite the wind whipping my hair at 60 mph! And the kids came back with quite the treasure trove of miscellaneous rocks and twigs.

Our school theme this week concentrated on the holiday. I love weeks like that. Some homeschoolers look at holiday worksheets and crafts and unit studies as too much extra busy work.  Let them enjoy it. Take a school break. But I have found that my kids actually look forward to it. Not a one was asking to not do school. And when it got too late in the day (since we were having company over) and I had to finish up dinner and have the kids get to chores, there was a loud chorus of groaning and please can we do some more school coming from their lips.

We found the most wonderful little freebie this week from Living Books Curriculum. It was a little holiday package with a living biography of St. Patrick and mapwork, copywork, and a fabulous color sheet. I let the kids color with the coveted color pencils while I read Amy Steedman’s Our Island Saints (Love her work! You can find more of it here.). It was a phenonomal example of a living book. I stopped periodically to have the kids narrate back what had happened and they did flawless narrations and remembered much more detail then I thought they would. One of those yeah-Charlotte-Mason-really-works!!! kind of days.

We then, as a group, worked on the Trinity Shamrock from Little Blots. This is a beloved favorite every year and we’ve done a different project for it each year. I love the depth that this tradition will bring to their adult faith when they get older.

Since we ran out of time we finished up the next day with a wonderful, simple phonics game for the littles and a St. Patrick’s Day Lapbook for the two older kids.

I worked with the two younger ones and we read My “e” Sound Box and Play with “a” and “t” to supplement.

The two older students had to use this time to practice working together. They each read St. Patrick’s Day and Let’s Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day then had to use teamwork to figure out how to fill out and put together their lapbooks. I stayed out of it and allowed them all the time they needed and the freedom for their result to turn out how they saw fit.

St. Patrick's Day Lets Celebrate St Patricks Day

We used these fun little cards in the children’s treat bag and then again as copywork. So our little St. Patrick study took care of language arts, history, and art this week.

Monopoly

And for math we broke out the Monopoly game for the first time. I helped Luc along but we let Gabe and Lily fend for themselves. Gabe did excellent and had no problem using his multiplication and money counting skills. For him it was more about learning what a mortgage is and what property value means. For Lily it was a chance to do practical work with the money counting skills she’s been learning and some practice in triple-digit hundreds addition. For Luc we kept it simple in allowing him to count out his spaces on the board. The kids loved it. I think this game will start coming into rotation often.

Linking with Weird, Unsocialized Unschoolers @

Living Math for Elementary Students

In the process of ordering upcoming curriculum for the year, Ive been thinking a lot about Luc and how we want to do kindergarten with him this fall.  I knew we were going to be using the free online Progressive Phonics and our Bob books and Leap Frog videos. I just wasn’t sure about math. That is, until I found this book over at Queen’s Homeschooling Supplies.

We’ve done living math in the sense of reading a living math book from the library or our own collection. And the kids love this but it is, obviously, not enough for a full school year’s curriculum. Now, if you took the time to map out enough living math books and set up hands-on activities to go with them I am sure you can have a very fulfilling living math experience. But, since this isn’t my season for adding extra, this is the first, truly, Charlotte Mason style math book with a full scope and sequence for elementary students. It is really for students age 4-7 (hoping they’ll add more to the series) but will be a blessing for us this upcoming fall. I will be able to use it with Luc (5) and Lilah (3 1/2) at the same time. It is so endearing. Click the preview pdf to take a look!

We are doing the Life of Fred: Fractions with Gabe this fall instead of Math U See to see how he does with this style of living math. I think, because he is math oriented, that he will love it. How can you not love Fred? I am hoping that this dipping our toes into the world of living math will be a good thing for us. Here’s hoping!

Field Guides as Living Books

A field guide ~ that handy little book (or big book, as the case may be) that tells you factually exactly what you need to know about what you wanted to know about.


Not exactly what we think of when we think living books. Living books for me usually encompass thoughts about a really great story that captures my heart and emotions…ties me to a piece of knowledge, whether that be history or science or art or music or even math. Isn’t that the Charlotte Mason way?

It is, but oh can it be so much more!

Around this house it is the field guides that are the beloved books that steal my children’s hearts. It is the field guides that are in tatters with missing covers and a few torn pages, well-worn from the turning and turning that happens to them. It is the field guides that my children will turn to over and over that lead to the most interesting discussions and interest-led learning opportunities. It is the pictures that capture their imagination at the pre-reading level and then grow with them as they enter into the reading fold. It is the realist that touches them as their natural curiosity is insatiable.

And it was the same for me when I was a child. Yes, I remember falling in love with Laura Ingalls and Nancy Drew and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But, really, it was the Golden Guide’s pocket book on butterflies that captured me and stirred up my heart for later adult hobbies. So why shouldn’t it be the same for my children?

After all, Charlotte did say ~

…knowledge, that is, roughly, ideas clothed upon with facts, is the proper pabulum for mind. This food a child requires in large quantities and in great variety. The wide syllabus I have in view is intended in every point to meet some particular demand of the mind.   ~A Philosophy of Education p. 256.

And our favorite field guides around here:

Encyclopedia of Animals,9780681460249

Borders bargain at $9.99!

Hammond’s Animal Atlas

The same from my childhood with a new spiffy cover!

As well as all the other Golden Guide Pocket Books…especially the Pond Life

(Although, I personally like the older shabby chic cover better.)

Of course, we all remember this review! Great book, great bargain!

Extensive and up to date! Another Borders bargain!

(find here used at Amazon)

Universe…what can I say except this is a must see book! (another Borders bargain)

It takes you across our galaxy from stars to planets and moons to meteors all in the order of how many light years away from earth it is. And the pictures are phenomenal. One of my personal faves!

Visual Dictionary…bargain for us at Barnes and Nobles and now you can get it bargain priced as used!

Smithsonian’s Rock and Gem

Animal Tracks and Signs: Track Over 400 Animals From Big Cats to Backyard Birds

Animal Tracks & Signs…a gift from Grandma!

(The poop quiz is their favorite, of course!)

Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds

I think we use this one on almost a daily basis in the spring time! And the diminutive size means it is constantly getting lost as little hands snatch it and carry it around in pockets and purses.

The Bird Songs Anthology…which they’ve looked at so much that we’ve had to glue the sound part on several times and now we just set it in with the stuffed birds basket. Most listened to bird? The ptarmigan. This erupts in giggles for hours! (And the giggling is contagious…just to warn you! Don’t believe me? Go hear for yourself!)

Field Guide to Wildflowers

(native to our forests in Nebraska…will update later with a picture since I can’t find one online)

Trees of North America

One of the best identifying books ever whether you have a pinecone, a leaf, a piece of bark or a tree seed. Real time pictures of each part of the tree…just flip pages until you see what you’re holding in your hand from that nature walk!

And, of course, we can’t forget the Crinkleroot Guides! I don’t think there is a book alive by him that we don’t love!

Product Details Product Details Product Details Product Details

 

Guided Project Work

January 31 – February 4

At the beginning of the week I mentioned that during my potty training time with Ivy I would have the two older kids working on guided project work. I was very excited about this concept and the kids were too. We’ve done project work in the past with trying to allow the kids to pick and work on something that they were interested in but have had little success with this style (no matter how promising it seems at Camp Creek!!!). Mainly, it seems, because my kids seem to still want me there to guide them and I, having too many littles, end up not being able to be there in the way they want. Or the littles constantly get into their stuff thereby defeating the purpose of taking their time to complete a project.

I thought our new method would be more constructive. I let them pick out library books they were interested in. Then, unknowingly to them, I read through their books and put together a few mini projects they could use with their books. I incorporated their specific learning styles and what they need work on currently.  That way it would still be interest-led (i.e. no reading books mom made them read) yet still accomplish goals I had for them (i.e. math, reading practice, science, history, copywork, etc.) while freeing up mommy for toddler-devoted training time.

Lily’s Projects (seven years old)

Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words: From Accessories to Zany

Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy

  • Reading 4 Fancy Nancy books (reading practice), writing new “fancy” words on heart templates with one word to describe their meaning (vocabulary, handwriting practice), paste those heart templates onto cardstock and decorate in a fancy way, paper punch each one and bind it into her very own fancy flashcard vocabulary set (project work, crafting).
  • Read Mission Addition and solve the question at the end of each chapter (math with emphais on adding and value place). I made my own worksheet for her. Maybe if I ever learn how to do that whole pdf thing then I’ll share!
  • Read Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying , tell mom an oral narration after each chapter, draw a picture narration, copy down a small portion of narration (that mom dictated) to go with picture narration, bind together in a folder (narration, reading practice with a chapter book, reading comprehension, copywork/penmanship, spelling, punctuation grammar practice).

Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying Book & CD Set (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))Mission: Addition

 

Gabe’s Projects (nine years old)

Mistakes that WorkedAccidents May Happen

  • Read Mistakes That Worked and Accidents May Happen, pick top three favorite inventions from each book (six total), draw a picture narration of invention, include a short narration on who invented it, when invented, and the accident or mistake that caused the invention, copy a famous quote by Mark Twain, bind and make into a folder for show and tell to mom and dad (science, history, copywork, narration/reading comprehension, researching skills, project work, oral speech skills).
  • Read Go Figure and Why Pi?, pick one project and one puzzle from each book, take the Go Figure math quiz, read specifically about pi from each book and do a notebooking page, copy a famous quote by Galileo, bind all work into a folder for show and tell to mom and dad (math with emphasis on story problems, math in the read world, how science and math merge, and introduction to pi and geometry; science; copywork; logic and problem solving skills, oral speech skills).

Go Figure!: A Totally Cool Book About Numbers (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award (Awards))Why Pi?

So, how did our week go?

Lily did very well. She really enjoyed all her projects and has been working diligently daily with little help from me other than asking how the occassional word is pronounced and having me help with the dictation for her copywork. I did discover that she needed coaching in narration, or more to the point summarization. She has never had a problem narrating for me and actually quite enjoys it. But this is her first chapter book that she’s methodically read through. So I noticed on her narration that she was having a hard time summarizing her thoughts as this is a much bigger story then she normally reads. So we talked about how a narration is just a summary of what happened so we needed to know what happened at the beginning of the chapter, in the middle of the chapter, and at the end of the chapter. We practiced on one of her Fancy Nancy books and then I think it clicked for her so her narration today was much improved!

Gabe started the week off strong. He loved working independently and that he was working through books that he already loved to read. But the novelty quickly wore off for him. Once he realized that he was actually going to be doing work and that some of his work was going to challenge him (i.e. that he wasn’t going to get it right the first time sort of thing) then he wanted to quit and give up. Even with the puzzles he first picked, not being able to do it in five minutes and perfect frustrated him and he sank to the lowest denomonator and did the puzzles that he’s already done before or were easy to figure out. (A homeschooling mother’s worst nightmare!) We talked a lot about perserverance and how rewarding it will feel to figure it out on his own. He seems dubious and is still coming to me for help instead of trying to do things on his own. I just keep redirecting him and reminding him why mommy is not helping this week. This may be one to talk over with the hubby.

Other unschooling fun ~

  • Continued reading Little House in the Big Woods at lunch time. The kids just love this story and it has come up several times during other discussions such as why we are not buying lettuce right now for lunch sandwiches and grocery store food versus growing your own and preserving.
  • Several independent crafting projects – mainly to make their own toys. We’ve got sock puppets galore and cereal boxes being made into cardboard houses.
  • A lunch discussion today involving living math. Lily wanted to know just why it was that I was always saying (mainly at lunch) that we are having water so that the milk stretches  till I get to the store next (we go through 7+ gallons a week!). So I explained to Lily and Gabe about milk and pricing, which they didn’t think was very much. Then I had them guestimate how much we spent on food in one week and then for one month. (Gabe’s answer about $300 a month or $70 a week, Lily’s answer about $20 a week or $60 for the month.) I told them the real answer (between $500 – $600) and we talked about just why daddy works and what that money is used for. Then we talked again about milk prices and the sale and normal price of milk. We worked on averages to come up with a round figure and then practiced multiplying that by 7 gallons and then that number times 4 weeks (about $80 per month on just milk!) It was a good eye opener for them both. Lily is just now starting to understand the value of money and Gabe has a better grasp due to his lack of winter chore money from gram and pop.

Linking up with…

@ Wierd, Unsocialized Homeschoolers today!